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Game industry welcomes more women composers, still pays them less than men

Game industry welcomes more women composers, still pays them less than men

September 26, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

Game audio conference GameSoundCon is happening this week in Los Angeles, and a survey of game audio professionals conducted by organizers in advance of the show suggests that while more women composers are working in games than ever before, they're still not being compensated as well as their male counterparts.

The difference is striking: 81 percent of the 587 self-identified game audio professionals surveyed chose to share data on their compensation, and the average woman was reportedly paid 73 percent as much as the average man.

A deeper analysis of the gender data was later commissioned by an independent statistician (since the average woman had also spent less time working in game audio than the average man, for example), and the results are significant: More women than ever before reported earning income from game audio work (10.4 percent, up from 7 percent the year prior), but "even after accounting for the lower average number of years of experience in the game audio industry, women make less than men."

"The difference in total income is equivalent to approximately 2.1 years of experience," reads an excerpt of the analysis. "That is, the ‘cost’ of being female in game audio is approximately the equivalent of having 2.1 fewer years of experience in the game audio industry."

Both the initial survey and the follow-up analysis are worth reading, since the topic of gender gaps in game audio (and, indeed, the business of game audio itself) is too rarely addressed in depth.

Speaking to Billboard, GameSoundCon frontman Brian Schmidt said the results of the survey have inspired 'Con organizers to host a roundtable discussion on the issue. They also intend to get a disproportionate number of women speakers onstage in order to both showcase more women leaders in game audio and broaden industry perceptions of what a game composer looks like. 

It's not an isolated issue, either; From as early as 2001 to as recently as 2014, Game Developer Magazine and, later, Gamasutra's venerable industry-wide salary surveys have always revealed a significant, pernicious pay gap.

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